The Simplicity of a Waste Walk – Guest Blog Spot From Jamie Flinchbaugh

Guest post by Jamie Flicnhbaugh, co-founder of the Lean Learning Center. You can read more by Jamie at JamieFlinchbaugh.com


I hate any checklist that says what you SHOULD do as a lean organization. But if I did start such a checklist, I would probably put Waste Walk on the top of that list. It’s simple. It’s foundational. It combines learning and results. Yet very few actually practice it.

What is a waste walk?

A waste walk is nothing more than a dedicated team with a set time and a specific focus area to identify and eliminate the 7 types of waste.

Why do it?

First, it’s simple. All you are doing is using the lens of the 7 types of waste. It doesn’t take any special kind of planning or prep, just a little focus. It doesn’t require a ton of training; just enough to align on understanding the 7 wastes.

Second, by doing it you are also learning. You are developing people’s lens to be able to spot waste. The further you develop this lens within the organization, the better people spot waste on an everyday basis. But by doing the waste walk you are developing this lens together. You are aligning in your thinking which turns into aligned decision making and action.

Third, you start driving improvements in small, simple steps. You aren’t trying to transform an entire process in one giant swoop. You are eliminating one identified waste at a time. Less pressure, less investment, less time – small steps.

How do you execute a waste walk?

First, you do need a little education. Everyone on the team needs to be aligned on what the 7 wastes are. I would use the Single Point Lessons that we developed at the Lean Learning Center, but any method will do. You won’t be completely aligned until you apply the lens together, but you need a start before doing that. We also use the mnemonic TIMWOOD to remember them: Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Overprocessing, and Defects.

Second, you need to pick a dedicated time and area of focus. Pick a process or an area to walk. It doesn’t have to be your worst process, just anything that has an opportunity to improve.

Third, as you walk the area, find as many examples of waste that you can’t. Don’t filter them on what you can fix and what you cannot. Use the 7 wastes to describe and identify them. It’s not just waste, but the specific example of waste.

Fourth, pick one or two things that you can eliminate and do it. Do it immediately.

Too many organizations don’t commit to their lean journey because it’s a big and complex journey. It doesn’t have to be. A simple thing like a waste walk can get you started.